Fostering the Next Generation of Leaders in Science and Technology

The annual UC Davis Global Research Experience in Advanced Technologies (GREAT) Program, which allows top students from around the world to gain research training in cutting-edge science and technology fields from leading UC Davis faculty members, culminated with a research symposium on Aug. 30.

Thirty-six participants from top partner institutions in East Asia presented their research in engineering and physical sciences, as well as natural and biological sciences. Students had the opportunity to share what they’ve learned and engage with fellow students and scholars in multidisciplinary collaborations.

The GREAT program provides a stepping stone for these international students, all of whom will go on to apply for master’s degrees—75 percent of which will apply to programs in the United States. “One of the most important features of the GREAT program is that students have a one-to-one research relationship with a professor, and that’s a big distinguisher between typical undergrad and graduate programs,” explains Tingrui Pan, professor of biomedical engineering and the GREAT program faculty director at UC Davis.

For many students—all of whom are fourth-year undergrads—this program is their first, if not only, chance to actually engage in hands-on research in a lab. They have the opportunity to work alongside graduate students and post-docs on a daily basis who help mentor and guide them through the research process. “The most valuable thing is the experience of being with graduate students and doing research in the lab because it’s not very common for undergraduate students to get involved in laboratories,” says GREAT participant Qingsheng Ren, who plans to apply to master’s programs in computer science or electrical engineering.

The real-world lab and research experience that these students get at UC Davis, a top research institution, gives them a competitive edge when applying to graduate schools.
Students learn key lab skills, such as running experiments more efficiently, problem solving and working collaboratively, and the program also includes training in the graduate application process, professional writing, presentation skills and ethical issues.

“There are so many valuable things I’ve gotten out of this program,” says student Zhihao Li, whose research involved designing a vision-assisted single-cell microfluidic printer able to identify and filter single cells based on different sizes and shapes. “I would like to come back to this lab in graduate school and this program has been very good preparation for that.”

GREAT serves as a recruitment pipeline by offering skilled and motivated international students the opportunity to experience UC Davis. “It’s great for our global impact,” says Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, dean of UC Davis’ College of Engineering. “And it certainly helps their global awareness because students not only do research here, but they engage with the community and the environment so they learn more about our role, too.”

Administered by the Center for International Education at UC Davis Extension, the GREAT Summer Research Program represents a collaboration between faculty and scholars from different countries and backgrounds and serves to promote the internationalization of the UC system.